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If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the idea that things can’t get any worse is largely an illusion. Every time it looks like 2020 has thrown everything it has at us, we find ourselves facing new challenges. There is a rampant virus (please wear a mask!). There are mystery seeds. There are murder hornets. Not to mention, wildfires, derechos, and hurricanes. And don’t even get us started about politics. 

We mention all of this not to bum you out, but to illustrate an important point. Humans tend to believe things are as bad as they are going to get—just before they get a little worse. This tendency can be particularly dangerous for someone struggling with drugs or alcohol because they may have a mental image of what “rock bottom” looks like. 

Because the person in question has not yet arrived at what they think of as rock bottom, they may believe everything is fine and their substance use is not a major problem. Worse, they may redefine “rock bottom” each time they perceive they are getting close to their current definition. This redefinition of rock bottom can give them an excuse to stay out of treatment. Meanwhile, the consequences of their substance use disorder get worse and worse and worse.

Rolling the Rock Down the Road

Maybe you woke up with a hangover this morning. But if you had a real problem, you would want to get drunk again this morning,right?

Maybe you got a DUI last night. But if you had a real problem, you would have crashed rather than gotten pulled over, right?

Maybe you let your coworkers down last week because you couldn’t concentrate. But if you had a real problem, you wouldn’t be able to make it to work at all, right?

Maybe you have been fighting with your spouse or partner about how much you have been drinking or how often you are using drugs. But if you had a real problem, they would have left you by now, right?

Maybe you woke up somewhere unexpected this morning. But if you had a real problem, you would be waking up in the gutter, right?

See what is happening here? You have been redefining what it means to have a “real problem.” You have been rolling the rock in “rock bottom” down the road. In our first example, you woke up with a hangover, but figured it was no big deal. In our last example, you woke up in a place you don’t remember going to, and you are still thinking it is no big deal.

The sports metaphor that applies to this behavior is “moving the goalposts.” When faced with the idea that things are getting pretty bad, you redefine what pretty bad means. 

Rock Bottom is the Wrong Baseline

Not only is “rock bottom” likely to become a moving target, it is also the wrong standard to focus on in the first place. 

While we probably all have a mental image of what someone with a substance use disorder looks like—and that mental image is likely pretty dire—the fact is that a person who is struggling with drugs or alcohol should get help long before anything even resembling “rock bottom” is in sight. Getting help sooner rather than later is always the better move.

You could think of a substance use disorder as similar to the development of cancer in the body. If your doctor discovers a smaller cancerous tumor in your body, they are unlikely to recommend that you wait for things to get worse before you seek treatment. 

And that’s true at every stage. Let’s say they find the cancer later in its progression. The doctor is unlikely to say, “Yeah, it’s pretty bad, but it isn’t as bad as it could be. So, let’s not treat it right now. Let’s wait until it is as bad as it can possibly be.”

That would be a ridiculous thing for your doctor to say, right? 

In just the same way, it is ridiculous—and dangerous—for you to say to yourself, “Yeah, I probably have a drinking problem, but it isn’t as bad as it could be. So, I won’t do anything about it right now. I’ll wait until it is as bad as it can possibly be.”

The time to get help for a substance use disorder is always right now.

Our Standard is Nothing Short of Your Sobriety

We are ready when you are ready—and we hope you will not wait. When it comes to tackling a substance use disorder (as well as any mental health disorders that may accompany or be contributing to it), sooner is always better than later. But no matter where you find yourself, we offer personalized, compassionate, evidence-based care that is free from judgment and focused on you. 

We have set a high standard for ourselves, committing ourselves to helping you get sober and stay sober. Don’t make excuses—and don’t wait for some mythical version of “rock bottom.” The place to get help is French Creek Recovery Center. And the time to get help (we cannot emphasize this enough) is right now.